Making period arrows for fun and mental stress relief (Long)
So I was watching the quasi discussion on making arrow shafts and I wanted
to post how I do it, however I needed the time to write it all out.
As I mentioned you can do it either by splitting the wood or sawing it into
½ inch by ½ inch by 36 inch blanks and then rounding them somehow or by
harvesting some of the many hardwood shoots and saplings that grow in your
area and drying, debarking, straightening and sorting them.
Both methods are a huge amount of work but still worth doing.
The split timber style is more common I think unless you live in an area
that has a lot of good shrubs so this is what I will discuss. I know I
sound like that really boring history prof. no one liked in HS but you dont
have to listen to me now do you? ;)
So, start by selecting the best piece of wood, lumber or otherwise that you
can find, straight of form and grain as much as possible. I suggest some
good kiln dried lumber for your first arrows. Contrive to have them sawn
into blanks of ½ inch by ½ inch by 4 inches longer than you need for maximum
arrow length. For me 34 inches is fine and wastes no more wood than needed.
The grain should be as straight as possible as weird grain makes for weird
arrows, as well the long axis of the shaft should run parallel to the
direction of grain to minimize grain run off on the shaft.
I may as well warn you that you will more than likely be making a lot of
shafts to get a matched set with many spares that dont match. Generally you
dont make 12 arrow shafts this way and get 12 matched shafts. Life is just
not that easy.
I would suggest that a period of drying and balancing of the moisture
content of the blanks would be in order now before anything else happens so
that your arrows dont go all wonky on you later. Pile them in a stickered
pile for a day or 3 so they can acclimate to this new condition before
working on them.
Now once you have as many good neatly shaped blanks in a pile on your bench;
you need to make a jig to hold the shafts while you work.
The jig consists of a long piece of wood, longer than the blanks you will be
using and as straight and stable as possible. What you do is cut a V
shaped slot down the length of the jig. The notch should be a 90 degree
corner. On a table saw, 2 45 degree cuts will get you this notch.
I would make the jig from a number of layers of plywood glued together
neatly as this will be the most stable and strong way to do it. Then glue
this down to another piece of plywood, say 12 inches by 36 inches so you
have a stable base and a convenient workspace for the arrows. It also gives
you a base to clamp down the jig to the bench.
At one end of the notch, drill a 5/16 hole and glue in a short bit of arrow
shaft that will act as a stop for the shafts you make and if you make it
just high enough to protrude without being in the way you will do yourself a
Ok now lay one of your blanks in the notch and butted up against the stop.
The trick is to carefully remove with a plane a consistent amount from each
corner until you have now an 8 equal sided blank. I find 4 strokes on each
corner till you get a hang of it is a good way to start though it does take
a bit longer.
You now have 8 corners which need to be removed lightly to produce a 16
sided blank. I find that running a pencil down the crest of each corner
helpful in seeing what needs to be done.
With practice you can turn out well shaped and round enough shafts like this
to measure for spine and mass in a general way and saves you time and effort
with the ones that are way off. If too heavy and too stiff still, you can
work with them but if they are too light there is no point in finishing them
Once you have enough shafts to work with, you can sand the shafts round with
minimal fuss. I chuck the blank in a drill and using 80 grit paper give them
a couple passes but you can really bring them out of round here so be
careful. This however leaves scratches perpendicular to the grain and looks
terrible if you leave it that way so you must then sand with the grain to
remove them with a lighter grit sandpaper.
Once you have them round and smooth, now comes the matching of shafts. If
your blanks were consistent and even and your plane work was as well all
your shafts should be as well. I use a drill guide to make sure and make any
adjustments to size with some sandpaper. In fact it is a good idea to do
this at the different stages to make sure of consistency of size.
However as I said, the universe seldom is that easy so you need to now match
the shafts for spine and mass weight and there is a number of ways to do it.
1. You can nock and point each one and shoot them to see how they fly
without feathers. Bare shaft testing should be used to match arrows to a
specific bow whenever possible by shooting the arrow and changing the length
of the arrow and/or then sanding the middle third of the shaft you can bring
too stiff spine down to where each flies properly. More difficult to adjust
mass weight this way.
2. You can do this without shooting them till later if you understand how
arrows bend and flex. Arrows usually can be divided into thirds, the front
middle and back. The middle third is where most of the bending stress
happens and sanding here will most affect the spine of the arrow, the front
and back are mostly dead weight and sanding here will mostly affect the mass
of the arrow. (A warning: this method does not take effective spine into
account just actual spine so be careful.)
Generally you want to leave the balance of the arrow or FOC leaning to the
front by 10 to 14 % so, do most of your sanding for mass in the back third
and dont thin the nock too much or self nocks become too weak and too thin.
Measure and sand till the spine is right on for all of them and then measure
them all for mass weight. Only bring down the highest mass weights till they
fall into your acceptable range. The light ones are more problematic but
hopefully you dont end up with any but if you do, soak them a while in Tung
oil. A large tube they can be immersed in, will work. Depending on how off
they are, let them soak an hour or days. Eventually they will become
saturated and will gain no more weight but you can add from a few grains to
20 or 30 grains depending on time and practice.
With practice you can make shafts that are matched for spine and mass all
made by hand.
Nocks and fletching is another story.